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Indie Spotlight: Small Press(es) of the Year

By Mara Radut, Caitlin Morgan and Millie Kiel

We are well aware that choosing the Small Press of the Year is a difficult task, because every indie is worthy of this accolade.

Small Press of the Year is an award sponsored by the CPI group, meant to celebrate “innovative and grassroots publishers making names for themselves outside the mainstream.” With 50 small presses listed across different regions in the UK, the competition is vibrant. Competing on a smaller, regional scale, to then fight for the title of Small Press of the Year, the winning independent press is also looking at being crowned Independent Publisher of the Year. The stakes are high.

We thought we’d highlight a few of our favourites!

The first honourable mention considered for this award is Arachne Press. “Spinning stories since 2012,” this London-based small publisher specialises in award-winning short fiction, poetry and select non-fiction. They are committed to inclusivity and progress, and to exploring all forms and mediums of literature.

One of the coolest things about Arachne Press is their yearly Solstice Shorts Festival, where short fiction, poetry and music meet together, always on 21 December – the shortest day of the year.

Their vast repertoire consists of anthologies of poetry and short fiction, LGBTQ+ titles, children’s books and YA, as well as photographic portraits. They also have a wide range of audiobooks to buy and listen to on their website. The Don’t Touch Garden, This Poem Here and Where We Find Ourselves, just to name a few read-out-loud gems of Arachne Press.

There are so many incredible things about Arachne Press, but in short: their attention to detail and design, their environmentally conscious attitude and their ethics create a safe space for their authors and creators. And we, the readers, the observers, and the appreciators, are undoubtedly caught in Arachne’s webs.

“Small but brilliant.” That is how The Guardian described our next honourable mention currently being considered for the Small Press of the Year Abroad. We’re talking about Saraband, a fascinating indie press specialising in both fiction and non-fiction nature writing that discusses the UK and international landscapes, wildlife, and other environmental issues, with the aim to “inform and entertain” and “make the world a better place."

Based in Salford, Manchester, Saraband is widely diverse, but one of the most exciting things about it is that it champions the Northern literary scene, forming part of the Northern Fiction Alliance. As well as this, it currently works alongside New Writing North on the NorthBound Book Award, celebrating Northern English writing and publishing.

While its love of nature books has never wavered, Saraband hasn’t always been based in Salford. Originally a product of Connecticut, the press then moved to Glasgow – links to Scotland remain strong to this day – and then finally to Manchester in 2017. From Scotland’s Graeme Mcrae Burnet writing about the Scottish Highlands and the French countryside, to Stephen Moss’s Skylarks with Rosie: A Somerset Spring, there’s likely not many publishers out there with a passion to represent green landscapes in the same way that Saraband does, which is what makes them just so appealing.

Through their books, and the messages they are dripping into the literary scene, Saraband are evidently going above and beyond to share their love of everything nature with the world, and they show no signs of slowing down.

Further north than Manchester, we have Cranachan Publishing in Scotland which, much like the dessert it’s named after, focuses on sourcing “the finest, freshest writing so that we can produce books that our readers will want to devour in one sitting.”

Founded in 2016, Cranachan is a fairly new face on the publishing scene, and the fact that they have been listed as a finalist for this award is testament to their passion and the magic of the stories that they publish. Aiming to inspire and to foster a love of reading from an early age, Cranachan’s list focuses on books for children and young adults. It is also a list that focuses on Scotland, and being Scottish. Bramble Jam, an imprint aimed at those aged three to five, includes the title An Island Tail, all about life on a remote Scottish island. Pokey Hat, meanwhile, is aimed at ages eight to twelve, and includes a slew of gorgeous titles including a series of historical fiction books set in Scotland.

When writing about publishing and books – particularly in the context of large industry awards such as this one – it can be so easy to forget children. What Cranachan have achieved so far, and will go on to achieve, is testament to their skill and passion as well as the passion of children to immerse their imagination in a good book. Because, at the end of the day, who doesn’t love to be immersed in a good story? And that’s what every single one of the indie presses who’ve made it onto this list manage to do: they educate and entertain, inspire and empower. In our opinion, that makes them all a winner!


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